Current Legislation

The Current Legislation section includes up-to-date information on current and pending state legislation that affects parents with disabilities and their children. This page also contains advice and resources for child welfare workers who work with parents with disabilities and their children.

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Summary of State Legislation Supporting Parents with Disabilities

This page provides a summary of current and pending state legislation affecting the rights of parents with disabilities. Some laws protect all parents with disabilities from discrimination in court proceedings, while others are specific to a population, like blind parents. 

Despite notable achievements in other areas of disability rights, parents with disabilities continue to encounter significant discrimination. Parents with disabilities are more likely to have their children removed by the child welfare system as well as have their parental rights terminated. Moreover, within the family law system, disabled parents are less likely to gain access to custody or visitation of their children. Finally, prospective parents with disabilities encounter barriers to adopting children or becoming foster parents. While there are many reasons for the pervasive discrimination, it is notable that the child welfare, family law, and adoption systems are largely driven by state statutes. Read the summary | Plain-language version 

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The Legal Obligations of Foster Care and Adoption Agencies when Working with Prospective Parents with Disabilities

Learn what adoption and foster-care agencies are supposed to do for parents with disabilities under federal law.

Prospective parents with disabilities often face bias and speculation about their parenting abilities and may be denied the opportunity to adopt or foster a child simply because they have a disability. Sometimes foster care and adoption agencies screen out prospective parents with disabilities. Foster care and adoption agencies may not understand their legal obligations to provide reasonable accommodations to prospective parents with disabilities. For example, agencies must provide documents in accessible formats if requested, such as in Braille. Read the brief | Plain-language version 

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Best Practices for Attorneys and Researchers on How to Safeguard the Rights of Parents with Intellectual Disabilities and Their Families

In this brief, attorneys can learn the best practices for supporting parents with intellectual disabilities in custody disputes and other situations in which their parental rights may be threatened.

Parents with intellectual disabilities encounter significant discrimination within the child welfare system. Their families are more likely to be referred for allegations of neglect or abuse and have high rates of termination of parental rights. Parents with intellectual disabilities also must contend with discriminatory policies that presume incompetence. Read the brief 

Summary of Model Legislation to Prevent Discrimination Against Blind Parents

This sample legislation protecting blind parents from discrimination in family court and custody disputes can be used as a model for future state laws.

Notwithstanding important successes in other areas of disability rights, discrimination against parents with disabilities persists. Parents with disabilities are more likely to have their children removed by the child welfare system and have their parental rights terminated. Within the family law system, parents with disabilities are less likely to be awarded custody or visitation of their children. Lastly, prospective parents with disabilities are often denied the opportunity to adopt children or become foster parents. Although there are many reasons for the discrimination experienced by parents with disabilities, it is important to note that the child welfare, family law, and adoption systems are largely driven by state laws. Read the brief | Plain-language version 

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The Legal Obligations of Child Welfare Agencies and Courts when Working with Parents and Prospective Parents with Disabilities

Find out what child welfare workers can do for parents with disabilities in this information sheet.

Parents with disabilities often encounter discrimination when involved with the child welfare system. Parents with disabilities are more likely to be referred to their state’s child welfare agency and once involved are more likely to have their children removed. Moreover, the child welfare system sometimes speculates about a parent’s parenting ability based solely on their disability. The child welfare system sometimes does not provide parents with disabilities and their families the appropriate supports and services. In addition, prospective parents with disabilities may be denied the opportunity to adopt children or become foster parents. Read the brief | Plain-language version 

Representing Parents with Disabilities in Custody and Visitation Disputes: 10 Tips for Attorneys

Attorneys can use these 10 tips to help them represent parents with disabilities in visitation or custody disputes.

A growing number of people with disabilities are becoming parents and many, unfortunately, encounter discrimination. Indeed, parents with disabilities are less likely to be awarded custody or visitation rights for their children. Attorneys play a critical role in ensuring that parents with disabilities and their children are treated fairly and given the opportunity to thrive. Below are 10 tips for attorneys to assist in making sure these families are afforded their rights. Read the brief 

Representing Parents with Disabilities: 10 Tips for Attorneys

Learn 10 tips for attorneys representing parents with disabilities.

 As people with disabilities increasingly become active members of their communities, many are choosing to become parents. Unfortunately, however, parents with disabilities all too often encounter substantial discrimination, particularly within the child protection and family law systems. Attorneys have an important – and often, challenging – role they must play to ensure that parents with disabilities are treated fairly and given the opportunity to thrive. Below are 10 tips for attorneys to assist in making sure these families are afforded their rights. Read the brief 

National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities